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December 7, 2016. In one sense, it feels like yesterday, in another, like several years ago. A regular day until crashingly it wasn't. I will forever remember that day, as the first day I truly knew my husband of almost three years. Without compromising his privacy and the part of this story only he can tell, December 7, 2016 was the day my husband confessed to lying to me about a personal place of brokenness. I was devastated. Confused. Angry. Heartbroken. Embarrassed. Blindsided. Within a matter of seconds, my life felt like the remnants of a broken puzzle. Once beautiful & whole, now broken and complicated. I felt like all the pieces of my life had been scattered across the floor and there I was sitting, surrounded by the mess, not knowing how to pick up the pieces much less put them back together. Not to mention, it was Christmas, my absolute favorite time of the year–now ruined. My anger and disappointment only grew.
I remember, in the immediate days following, reading James 1:2-4 which says, "Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters when you face trials of many kinds" and shaking my fists at God thinking He must be crazy. When would I ever consider pain pure joy? It didn't make sense. I wanted to leave. Run away from the source of my hurt–my husband. I considered a separation. Divorce. Never speaking to the man I had vowed to love until death do us part. I remember yelling, "I didn't choose this! I did nothing wrong here yet I have to suffer the consequences!"
This was not the story I wanted, nor the one I thought I chose. I was so close to giving up, but thankfully God wasn't and he was slowly mending my heart. Despite my feelings, I committed to digging into the Word in the days, weeks, and months to follow. I had a small Advent devotional I used during the month of December, and not a day went by that the Lord didn't speak the precise nugget of truth my heart needed to hear that day. Not only that, but the Advent study I was reading kept referring to Christmas as a season of hope
. Here I was enraged to be trudging through a valley in the midst of my favorite time of year, when really it was the perfect time of year, full of the best kind of hope–our hope in Jesus. During this time, I was humbled by the reality of my own brokenness and need for Jesus when reading 1 Timothy 1:15, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst."
I'd read that verse so many times before, but all of the sudden the magnitude of it hit me–I am that sinner.
The one in need of Christ's redeeming grace. And so is my husband. Just like I need Jesus, my husband needs Jesus. The Lord was softening my heart, providing opportunities so I could steep in the reality of God's grace covering me, covering us all. It was as if I was experiencing God's grace anew. God's overflowing, all consuming, never ceasing grace. And it hit me–I must give the grace I've so freely been given. Grace by definition is the free and unmerited favor of God. Unmerited
–wow! I didn't feel like my husband deserved my forgiveness. I didn't feel like showing him grace. And I realized that was okay. I didn't have to feel like being gracious because God is so much grander than my feelings. I could respond in grace because of Christ living inside me. I wasn't facing my pain alone. God, Emmanuel–God with me. And what I heard Him whispering over and over again like a loving reminder from a father to his beloved daughter–grace upon grace upon grace.
I could choose my response to this chapter of my story. And by God's grace, I chose grace.
Right around this time I heard the song "O Holy Night" playing. "O Holy Night" is a song I've been singing for years, but it wasn't until this past Christmas I truly heard the words. In the first verse the song reads,
"Long lay the world in sin an error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth."
How had I missed this all of these years? Apart from Jesus we are in sin and pining for things that will only harm us, but in Jesus, by his grace, we are filled and made whole. Without Christ we are dead, doomed, and destined for darkness, but in Him the broken are healed.
For six months following December 7th
, my husband and I attended couples counseling. During one of the sessions our counselor shared a short story from Dan Allender's book, The Healing Path
. The story has stuck with me ever since and I'd like to share it with y'all. Allender shares a personal story from his marriage:
"In our first year of marriage, I once became so upset about something that I shattered a china vase given to us as a wedding present. The gift was of incalculable worth to my wife. I felt terrible shame after my outburst, apologized, but I knew the vase was ruined. Becky swept the pieces up, and I fled to my books. Weeks later, I scrounged enough money to buy a vase that was similar but not identical. Becky received the gift and said it was not necessary to replace what could be mended. I had no idea what she meant, but she asked me to take the vase back. I did. Several weeks later the vase I had shattered stood on our rickety kitchen table. Becky had taken the vase and painstakingly glued the pieces back together. It was no longer pristine, but it bore the intersecting spider lines of fissures healed. Before I'd felt ugly and small for ruining one of my wife's treasures, but when I saw the restored vase, I felt as if she'd given me a bittersweet draft of grace. She had not only forgiven me, but she had given us a new treasure that was both broken and whole, ruined and redeemed. Every time I look at the broken-but-healed vase I feel a surge of hope; it is for both of us an icon of redemption. Sin and its effects cannot be eradicated, but redemption can bring an even greater strength to a relationship or a heart that existed before. The scars of sin and death can't be erased, but they can become the weather-beaten marks of character that bring depth and intrigue to what would have been merely a beautiful but ordinary vase."
I love that story. God's grace has the power to change us and remake us. What I'm learning is God is in the business of making all things new, of taking what is broken and making it whole. Nothing is outside of God's redemptive power. He is the restorer of all things, and He's not finished with us yet. I went from sitting on the floor, shaking my fists at God, staring despairingly at the broken pieces of my story to a place of lavish grace, hand in hand with my Father as He restored me and my marriage day by day. As I think back on the past eight months, I'm overwhelmed by God's grace and left with Psalm 40 on my heart:
"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God."